The calliope crashed to the ground....
Released January 1973
Recorded at 914 Sound Studio, New York City
Running time 37:08
"Madmen drummers, bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat. In the dumps wih the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat..."
So begins the very first track on the very first album by Bruce Springsteen. What had we here? A "new Dylan", some of the music media, not too convincingly, proclaimed. To be honest, this is a somewhat strange, but undoubtedly unique, album of folky (sort of) rock, with a muffled drum sound and those verbose, overblown lyrics that gave only a few hints as to the megastar that Bruce Springsteen would become. Released in 1973, after several years playing small venues in his home town of Asbury Park, New Jersey, this album gained little serious attention, either in the US or in the UK. The world was interested in Led Zeppelin and David Bowie.
1. Blinded By The Light
2. Growin' Up
3. Mary, Queen Of Arkansas
4. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
5. Lost In The Flood
6. The Angel
7. For You
8. Spirit In The Night
9. It's Had To Be A Saint In The City
There is some interesting material on it though, the afore-quoted wordy magnificence of Blinded By The Light (which was later a big hit for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band); the mini street anthem Growin' Up (covered by David Bowie) and the dramatic Lost In The Flood, with its street characters the like of which populated many of Springsteen's early songs. It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City had a hard edged funk to it and was also covered by David Bowie. There was also the strange, acoustic, folky Mary Queen Of Arkansas and the bleak, haunting vocal and piano-only The Angel. All the songs have been performed in far better versions subsequently by Springsteen live.
For You, an upbeat rocking song, but about an attempted suicide, showed a maturity and sensitivity impressive in one so young. Spirit In The Night was a very typical early Springsteen song in that it featured a cast of nick-named characters - "Crazy Janey", "The Mission Man", "Wild Billy", "G-Man", "Hazy Davy" and "Killer Joe" and a captivating jazzy rock atmosphere about fun and drinking down at "Greasy Lake". The link some have made to W.B. Yeats' "Crazy Jane" poem are coincidence in my view. I am sure the young Springsteen didn't spend his time reading Yeats on the Asbury Park boardwalk. Van Morrison is a different matter, of course. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? is a comparatively short, vaguely Latin-influenced number that occasionally still gets played live, to the delight of fans.
The album is remastered here very nicely by the experienced Bob Ludwig. The sound is excellent and much improved on all previous releases. That drum sound will always be muffled, however, just as it was on the early Southside Johnny albums.
It is pretty much impossible to categorise this album by the so-called “new Dylan”. Was it folk? Was it rock? Lots of saxophone and piano here and there gave a hint to what would become trademark E Street Band sound. Overall though, nobody really knew. It all, therefore, slipped under the radar somewhat in 1973, which was, after all, a year of some titanic albums.
What was acknowledged, though, was that there was something in the songs of this scrawny, bearded somewhat shy, introspective young lad. He just needed to find some wings for his wheels....